24.4586, Review: Applied Linguistics: Elsner & Kessler (2013)
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LINGUIST List: Vol-24-4586. Mon Nov 18 2013. ISSN: 1069 - 4875.
Subject: 24.4586, Review: Applied Linguistics: Elsner & Kessler (2013)
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Monica Macaulay, U of Wisconsin Madison
Rajiv Rao, U of Wisconsin Madison
Joseph Salmons, U of Wisconsin Madison
Mateja Schuck, U of Wisconsin Madison
Anja Wanner, U of Wisconsin Madison
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Date: Mon, 18 Nov 2013 08:03:26
From: Sarah Hart [sarahhar at buffalo.edu]
Subject: Bilingual Education in Primary School
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Book announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/24/24-1586.html
EDITOR: Daniela Elsner
EDITOR: Jörg U. Keßler
TITLE: Bilingual Education in Primary School
SUBTITLE: Aspects of Immersion, CLIL, and Bilingual Modules
SERIES TITLE: narr studienbücher
PUBLISHER: Narr Francke Attempto Verlag
REVIEWER: Sarah Hart, University at Buffalo
Bilingual Education in Primary School: Aspects of Immersion, CLIL, and
Bilingual Modules contains a brief introduction followed by six chapters
discussing various aspects of bilingual education in primary schools,
specifically in Germany. In this volume, CLIL refers to content and language
integrated learning and primary school refers to the school attended by
children roughly from the ages of five to eleven, depending on the country.
The editors hope that this volume will assist other educators in successfully
creating and maintaining bilingual education programs.
Chapter 1: Daniela Elsner and Jörg-U. Keßler. Aspects of Immersion, CLIL, and
Bilingual Modules: Bilingual Education in Primary School.
This introductory chapter describes what bilingual education is, no easy task.
Bilingual education entails instruction in at least two languages, regardless
of the balance or duration of each languages. In CLIL, a more specific form of
bilingual education, up to fifty percent of the school subjects are taught in
the target language.
Simply teaching in the target language during a language course for two to
five hours a week, however, does not constitute bilingual education. Given
these definitions of bilingual education, this chapter offers seven research
questions including the following: “which approach(es) to bilingual education
are most promising in primary school settings”, “could bilingual education
enhance both language and content learning or would it rather water down one
of those or even both areas”, and “how can bilingual education cater for the
needs of the specific subject content rather than just serve as additional
language input”. The book “combines results of research studies, literature
reviews and best practice examples of bilingual education from all across
Europe and beyond” (p. 3). The final section offers an overview of the
Chapter 2: Gregory Poarch. Some Thoughts on Bilingualism.
Chapter 2 examines several definitions of bilingualism and effects of
bilingual acquisition and education; it explains that bilingualism covers a
large range of capabilities and unfortunately agreement on one specific
definition does not exist. Given the lack of a clear definition, this chapter
continues to explore positive and negative effects of learning multiple
languages from a young age.
This chapter critically considers several of the principal questions that
opponents of early bilingual education ask. Mainly, does learning a second
language at an early age confuse children, causing them to acquire a first
language more slowly and confuse two languages with each other? Poarch then
offers evidence of studies showing that not only are children who acquire
multiple languages not confused, but they even demonstrate more advanced
cognitive abilities than monolingual peers including “greater mental
flexibility, a higher aptitude for abstract and divergent thinking, and
superiority in the formation of concepts” (p. 11). The evidence outlined in
this chapter however only applies to children learning multiple languages in
immersive settings. Indeed, a certain level of proficiency must be gained in
the second language before the advantages of bilingualism become truly
Chapter 3: Daniela Elsner and Jörg-U. Keßler. Bilingual Approaches to Foreign
Language Education in Primary School.
Chapter 3 surveys various forms of bilingual education offered in primary
schools: specifically immersion, CLIL and bilingual modules. Unfortunately
relatively few primary schools in Germany operate under the guidelines of
immersion education, but those that do demonstrate high success in foreign
language development. The second approach is CLIL – content and language
integrated learning. The authors explain that this is an umbrella term for
many approaches in which any amount of specific content is taught in a second
language. CLIL is more widely used throughout Germany, and although it shows
less favorable results than immersion, it still offers a “valuable
contribution” to second language acquisition (p. 26). The third and final
approach is considered a subcategory of CLIL: bilingual modules. In this
approach, the frequency and intensity of L2 use is not as high as that of
CLIL, rather it is used for “time-limited and topic-specific phases of
lessons” (p. 20). This approach is the easiest to employ although the results
are obviously less favorable than those of immersion and CLIL.
Although this chapter places the success rates of these three approaches on a
scale of highest to lowest, each approach is more successful than traditional
second language teaching, as they offer a more realistic context. Students are
learning the language for a purpose: rather than explicitly learning a
language simply to learn the language. They are using language as “a medium of
negotiation within the frame of learning processes” (p. 22). Although the use
of a second language in content lessons may slow the process of acquiring the
content knowledge at first, these students do catch up to peers taught in
their first language after a period of time. While this lag may seem
problematic, the authors of this chapter argue that it is offset by not only
more successful L2 leaning, but also the higher development of social
competence, creativity, problem-solving ability and motivation in early
Chapter 4: Thorsten Piske. Bilingual Education: Chances and Challenges.
This chapter critically examines the faults with the current systems of
bilingual education, specifically in Germany. Piske first mentions the four
crucial factors for success in second language acquisition: an early start,
continuous and intensive exposure, frequent use of language in various
contexts, and access to input from native-like speakers. While students in
Germany are exposed to a second language at an early age, the other three
factors are not suitably addressed in those schools that offer second language
as a subject lessons. Most of these primary schools offer language instruction
for merely two lessons a week in a playful manner. In addition, most primary
school teachers did not study languages as a university subject and are often
not native-like in the language they teach. In contrast, those schools
offering immersion and CLIL bilingual programs address the four crucial
factors better by offering an immersion setting for at least part of each day
covering a variety of subjects.
The remainder of this chapter presents research evidence on the development of
L2, L1 and subject knowledge of immersion students in comparison to that of
non-immersion students. In terms of L2 development, not surprisingly studies
show that students in immersion primary schools had a richer vocabulary and
made fewer grammatical mistakes in English than peers who took English as a
subject course. In relation to L1 development, studies show two results: that
immersion students L1 reading fluency progressed faster than that of those
students in traditional schools, and that orthographical skills do not vary
significantly between the two groups. Finally, regarding development of
subject knowledge, studies show that after grade 1, immersion students tested
higher in mathematical skills but that by grades 2 and 3 the differences had
equalized. Therefore, this chapter supports the view that immersion-type L2
education is more successful than traditional L2 education and with no
significant detriment to L1 or subject development.
Chapter 5: Jörg-U. Keßler and Daniela Elsner. Bilingual Education -- Subject
This chapter explores several subjects that are suitable for integration into
bilingual education. The chapter is divided to address the following subjects:
natural science (5.1), mathematics (5.2) and physical education, art and music
Chapter 5.1: Natasha Aristov & Helga Haudeck. Natural Science.
Natural science at the primary level is not the complex subject that it
becomes in secondary school. In primary school, science is “experiencing the
world” (p. 43). Many argue that teaching science in a CLIL setting
unnecessarily complicates an already complex subject, and while this may be
true at the secondary level, the authors argue that primary level science is
basic enough to be taught in a second language. Primary school science classes
are exciting; many children find the most exciting subject in school. It is
ideal for CLIL because it is highly motivating: students follow directions
carefully (to ensure the exciting outcome of the experiment occurs), and are
eager to discuss the results.
Chapter 5.2: Britta Viebrock. Mathematics.
Mathematics and languages are often compared to each other, as structures in
one relate to the structures of the other. This section assures readers that
mathematics encompasses more than just symbols, and that it also has
communicative requirements. The chapter then outlines topics and terms used in
mathematics and offers resources for CLIL materials for a mathematics
classroom. Although resources are scarce and the idea of CLIL for mathematics
is fairly new, the authors of this chapter are hopeful that it will be taken
seriously in the future.
Chapter 5.3: Katja Heim. CLIL--Teaching the Art: Physical Education, Art,
The final section discusses the benefit of bilingual physical education, art
and music. Physical education and music at the primary level include many of
the same activities as beginner language lessons: action games and songs. Thus
it seems natural to overlap these subjects. These two are especially ideal for
beginning language learners as physical education starts with comprehension
(following rules) more than speaking, and music consists primarily of
repetition and memorization rather than producing original speech. These
activities are ideal beginning steps for language learners. Art is also a
fitting subject for bilingual education as the topics at the primary level
include describing basic topics such as colors, shapes and textures.
Chapter 6: Ute Massler & Daniel Stotz. Assessment in Bilingual Classrooms.
This chapter outlines the difficulties of assessment in bilingual classrooms
and offers appropriate criteria to do so. It first explains the difference
between formative and summative assessments, where formative assesses progress
throughout a topic and summative assesses knowledge at the end of a topic.
Both types of assessments should be used in order to gauge the success of the
lesson while in progress (with the option of readjusting the lesson as needed)
and to measure the students’ success against some sort of standard at the end.
The chapter then states several crucial requirements for assessment in CLIL
subjects: there should be discrete and separate assessment for language and
subject content in addition to a section where the two are assessed together,
and assessment should reflect the type of input received in class. In
addition, educators must take into consideration the age and developmental
stage of the learners: younger students often understand the material but may
not be able to express it, especially in a second language. For very young
learners, assessment should use very little written or spoken language
(visualization is key). As CLIL itself varies among educators, assessment must
also so that it properly relates to the style of instruction each student
Chapter 7: Kristin Kersten & Andreas Rohde. On the Road to Nowhere? The
Transition Problem of Bilingual Teaching Programmes.
The seventh and final chapter of this volume discusses the academic problems
encountered during transition from one institution to another (home to
preschool, preschool to primary school, primary school to secondary school).
The authors argue that transitions for content-based language courses are
easier than those of language oriented courses because they lack a specific
language curriculum and therefore an expectation of certain linguistic skills
before students can successfully move on. After administering surveys, the
authors of this chapter also found that the inherent stress and difficulty in
transition can be lessened by following certain measures (regulated transition
measures). These measures include information exchange between teachers at
both institutions regarding both goals and methods of class, exchange of
materials between institutions and informational meetings for parents.
This collection of chapters from various authors reads much more like a book
than an edited volume. Chapters flow easily from one to the next, each
containing new information and no repetition. The volume as a whole covers a
great amount of material from the various interpretations of what constitutes
bilingualism, to explanations of different bilingual education approaches, to
critical studies on those approaches in classrooms. It ends with a glossary
and an appendix of lesson materials mentioned throughout the text.
This volume would likely appeal most to language educators and their students.
The chapters within the volume are ideal for a language pedagogy class: each
begins with a short abstract followed by preparation questions to promote
thought and discussion before reading the chapter. Each also includes a
section titled “review -- reflect -- research” which encourages students to
critically analyze what they have just read. Finally, each chapter ends with a
list of suggested further readings. Beyond being ideal for a language pedagogy
class, it is also a superb read for language educators who wish to employ
forms of bilingual education in their classrooms.
The editors’ goal is to not only analyze certain forms of bilingual education
in Germany, but to assist others in becoming successful bilingual educators.
This goal has certainly been met as the chapters within offer detailed
descriptions of different methods and demonstrate through research and
critical analysis the success rates of various methods. This volume not only
shows how successful bilingual education can be, it acts as a manual and
explains how to bring this success to the reader’s own classroom.
Two brief criticisms are that the acronym CLIL, which appears in the title of
the book and throughout many of the chapters, is not actually explained until
chapter 3. Both the first and the second chapter used the acronym without
stating its full name and although many people who will read this book already
know the acronym, many others will not. Second, several quotes in German are
Introducing bilingual education at the primary school level can be extremely
beneficial and rewarding to both students and teachers alike. This volume does
a wonderful job of clearly explaining the current and past situation of
primary bilingual education in Germany, as well as motivate the reader and
convince him/her of the many benefits to introducing bilingual education to
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Sarah Hart is a PhD student in Spanish linguistics at the State University of
New York at Buffalo. Her research interests include comparative and historical
Romance linguistics, especially concerning Spanish of the 13th century. She is
currently working on her dissertation on the loss of the Old Spanish -udo
participle, in addition to teaching Spanish language courses.
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